2022 Phillies, MLB: Humidor-delayed Hittin’ Season

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While Philadelphia Phillies and other baseball supporters dwell on offensive deficiencies, this designed situation could come from the lords of Major League Baseball. And it means the campaign may be broken into three pieces but two parts. Ergo, it bases a fifty-fifty split on the weather: cold ends and hot middle.    

 

Uncharted Territory:

If you see just one month of standings and sluggers’ power stats, you’re missing the old-fashioned element in April and September influencing the entire 162. My best guess: Players cannot swing for the fences until June and must play small ball to win in April, May and September. Habit-forming, no?             

Put Another Way:

“Don't look at the hole in the doughnut. Look at the whole doughnut.” - Branch Rickey

In Arizona and Colorado, those organizations had installed humidors, and it slowed the homer barrage for those National League West clubs. Now, the MLB has humidors in every big league stadium. And –surprise!-- bombs are down and many are noticing.  

While veteran outfielders are going to the wall judging by the swing and the sound, stars have disbelieving faces when the ball just dies well shy of the fence. And, sometimes, the outfielder must move quickly forward to the grass for the catch. Yes, outfielders and hitters are misjudging flies in 2022 they didn’t during 2021.   

Translation: Balls going to the warning track now will land in the stands in June, July and August. And teams wanting to win now must play good old-fashioned baseball, or they’ll lose. So, will they resort to only the long ball during the hot three months or score both ways into October? 

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Phillies: 2022’s Rare Conclusions

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful make snap judgements about their stars, management and expectations for the immediate future, plus they react after each game. Mostly negative! Despite contradictory evidence, though, many conclude the team is how they are playing at any given time: good or bad.                   

 

Instant Answers:

Phillies fans –like their counterparts rooting for other major league franchises– reach immediate conclusions as if there’s only one possible answer. Realistically, there are many factors involved because baseball, sports and life are complex. But, unfortunately, many conclusions are emotional, not mental.  

Put Another Way:

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” - H. L. Mencken

Basically, it takes six months to play a full 162, and it’s nearly impossible to win two of every three contests. Granted, some clubs in baseball history have, but a titanic majority hasn’t. No, seasons contain ups and downs: periods of winning, .500 ball and losing. And the Fightins have done all three this summer.        

In April, the Phils were a .500 team with an 11-11 mark. And this record indicates their rotation, bullpen and offense had victories because these three components complemented each other. Though, at least, one part failed and led to defeats in half of them.   

Losing means one element or more failed: 65 percent for the red pinstripes in May. Thus, they had only 10 triumphs out of 28 games. But, unfortunately, some locals gave up on them and probably believe the real ‘22 Phillies played in May.                        

Even though the Fightins are 18-6 in June, doubting Thomases will probably find any reason to discount their current success: easier competition, luck, and playing a good club having a rough patch. However, the opposite –a tougher schedule– with bad breaks is irrelevant to them.      

For players, being hot is due to confidence gained from success, but this is a double-edged sword because failing causes doubts. And negative thinking creates a subliminal overreaction resulting in a slump. Basically, to compete at this level requires precise mechanics in a relaxed state.

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Phillies: 2022’s Hidden Threat

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Some Philadelphia Phillies faithful believe the Fightins have no shot against their two divisional foes, and rival fans agree. Ergo, their franchise will succeed, while the red pinstripes will fail as usual. In fact, their supporters think there are only two clubs able to secure the National League East pennant.

 

Underestimated Challenger:

While the Phillies have a decent rotation and a potent offense even with a struggling power hitter, their relief corps has some solid pieces, and their defense is capable of making routine plays. Plus the front office has roughly $15 million available and can still be under the second tax threshold. A gambler’s chance, no?                             

Put Another Way:

“Think of success as a game of chance in which you have control over the odds. As you begin to master concepts in personal achievement, you are increasing your odds of achieving success.” - Robert Foster Bennett

In their minds, New York Mets supporters believe their team has a lock on the NL East, and they expect a coast-to-coast ride for ‘22. Unbelievably, most even dismiss the Atlanta Braves as a competitor, plus the red pinstripes aren’t worth mentioning. And since the below clip aired, Atlanta and Philly are both 15-3.   

The Link:

"THE NL EAST IS OVER" - @sal_licata on Baseball Night in New York

 

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2022 Phillies: June’s Pen Reinforcements

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

For some knowledgeable Philadelphia Phillies fans, one bad outing by any back-end reliever –especially the closer– spoils the entire bullpen. Unfortunately, even the best ninth-inning firemen have poor appearances or barely escape with a save. And the Phillies just scored on two of the top four MLB closers. Yes, even the best!  

 

Unicorn Wanted:

Starters throw 60 percent strikes and can miss with a centered fastball or hang an offspeed pitch. And if they can’t achieve that, they become relievers from middle frames to late-game innings. With rare exceptions, though, they are going to have rough patches to work through. 

Put Another Way:

Coaches and ownership are just like the fans on the street. They can always do it better, and they would always have done it differently when it doesn't work out.” - Billy Wagner

What is Billy Wagner saying? When a player doesn’t always perform up to his potential, some major league supporters are unhappy because they think he’s not doing his job. But averaging .300 is failing at a 70 percent rate; however, they expect a clutch hit at a much higher percentage: contradictory.                    

Even though Aroldis Chapman, Brett Myers and Jonathan Papelbon were rotation worthy, control mostly determines a hurler’s role from Single-A to the majors. Ergo, Chapman and Myers wanted the ninth frame over starting, but Papelbon as a rookie filled the pen’s need due to a set five-man staff.                    

When locals view players with assumptions, they vilify the ones they don’t like and give a pass to those they do. In fact, they are quick to turn on relievers who have poor outings too close together. And I remember a fan who was down on a reliever due to two recent opportunities after a lights-out stretch but still at 90 percent.         

To clarify, a good outing can be two singles sandwiched around a double play because it wasn’t a nail-biter. But if you're feeling anxious about a fireman being one pitch away from defeat with the opponent rallying, that escaped jam is a bend-don’t-break appearance. Therefore, getting the job done is acceptable. 

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Phillies: 54-Game 2022

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While numerous Philadelphia Phillies fans have given up or may consider it, Dave Dombrowski, PBO (president of baseball operations), changed the dugout leadership for many reasons, not one alone. A needed wrinkle!                     

 

Law of Averages:

The Phillies are exactly at the one-third mark for ‘22, but some are already looking ahead to football. To many, the team is beyond fixing, and they expect the double-digit games-behind number to increase. Granted, expectations played an outsized role without blame.        

Put Another Way:

“I've always made a total effort, even when the odds seemed entirely against me. I never quit trying; I never felt that I didn't have a chance to win.” - Arnold Palmer

Some locals “checked out” regarding 2022 in mid-May but could return if the franchise is within shouting distance of first place in the National League East. Therefore, they don’t anticipate returning until spring training even if the club gets to within four games of the New York Mets and is in the wild-card hunt.     

To reiterate, expectations were sky-high, which goes perfectly with casting blame. Honestly, Joe Girardi took the heat for a team-wide effort, and every man in the clubhouse knows it. But there were other reasons for Dombrowski’s so-called Hail Mary.        

Even if you believe Philly has no patience, you can’t claim that honor. No, it’s like that in New York City and Boston too. In fact, New Yorkers may have more of a right for this distinction and finger-pointing blame –but not by much! Yeah, our closest northern neighbor is famous for the Bronx Cheer.       

A secondary reason is attendance and television ratings because revenue pays for the on-field product. Basically, the organization has competition from the shore and other entertainment venues. And only the most dedicated baseball fanatic is going to endure the heat and cost for a losing club. 

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Phillies: Baseball Men Like 2022’s Rotation

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful are negative and positive, but the negative ones have the loudest voices, highest expectations and longest lasting disappointments. Moreover, they embrace the worst-case scenario for players and the organization. Guaranteed unhappiness, no?                      

 

Microanalysis:

The Phillies five-man staff wasn’t the only one off to a “bad” start because only a few hurlers were past the spring-training phase of ‘22. Translation: Pitch-count limits covered only up to five frames under most circumstances. To illustrate, Zack Wheeler’s first three outings totaled 12 ⅔ innings but 38 ⅔ for his last six performances.                                            

Put Another Way:

“People who write about spring training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball.” - Sandy Koufax

Some critics have doubted every hurler on the Fightins. Please, don’t confuse domination with consistency, which is four acceptable –bend, don’t break– outings out of every five: 80 percent but 75 percent for a full 162. And a six-frame average overall is what management expects.   

Maybe, locals’ memories of the old days include the four aces’ career highlights. To them, bad games probably didn’t exist, and they are against pitch counts and innings limits. Well, pitching through pain –until a moundsman couldn’t lift his arm– was the longtime norm: the forgotten part.                   

Flamethrower Jim Wright was the Phillies top rotation prospect, but he never threw 150 pitches in an MLB start. With streaming tears, his arm felt on fire, and Wright chucked his last 1979 bullet because his bone snapped in half and protruded through his skin. Yeah, I remember hearing the bad news.

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Phillies: 2022’s Priority for July

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful decide if their club is a winner, a loser or a .500 team, they are the same every season whether they’re atop the division, in the pack’s middle, or near the basement. They’re all three!    

 

Deadline Acquisition:

For Phillies fans, there’s now and there’s then. And they’ll change their thinking based on whether it’s April 1 or July 20 even if their positions are diametrically opposite. Regardless, some locals will demand top talent despite the exec’s yardstick: the standings and July’s record.  

Put Another Way:

“Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead.” - Jackie Robinson

At this point, many believe the Fightins are a disappointment with the New York Mets comfortably atop the National League East, but they’ll need more than Pete Alonso for power. And they have rotation injuries again. So, either the Phils and/or Atlanta Braves could topple them or effectuate a three-club race. 

During March, the signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Costellanos were fuel for wishful thinking. And many wanted Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm off the squad despite the additions. In fact, some may believe they’ll fail and confirm their preseason suspicions.     

The humidors have affected the power of many sluggers, but warmer weather will correct this issue until September. And selling low on Bohm and eating Gregorius’ contract  have proven patience is a front-office asset. But imagine the howls if Bohm was hitting .300 for another franchise.  

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2022 Phillies: Mind-over-Heart View

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

If you ask the Philadelphia Phillies faithful their thinking on the bullpen, what answer would I expect? The loudest! Usually, many comments occur when a reliever has a bad outing; and knowledgeable fans question Dave Dombrowki, PBO (president of baseball operations), for this hurler being on the 26-man roster.                     

 

Perfection or Reality:

The Phillies and other franchises measure relief-corps success differently from their supporters, barring an exception for ones they like. Realistically, though, organizations don’t expect all good performances from everyone, but some fans have expectations an All-Star couldn’t achieve to their liking.              

Put Another Way:

“Some days you tame the tiger, and some days the tiger has you for lunch.” - Tug McGraw

Addressing the ugly coyote at the Bank is first. Basically, James Norwood either had a poor outing or threw imprecise strikes counting on his defense. And Corey Knebel wasn’t ready for a save with a six-run lead and three outs remaining. However, Ricky Bottalico remembered his similar shut-it-down inning.              

With a basic plan, Joe Girardi wanted Norwood to regain his confidence after his poor outing on May 1 against the New York Mets, and a six-run lead was a chance to fix Norwood. Unfortunately, things went sideways to everyone’s shock.    

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Phillies, NL East: 2022’s Ups and Downs

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

In every season, the Philadelphia Phillies and their divisional rivals win, lose, and play .500 ball. And it depends on their health and roster if one of those three outcomes is stronger than the others by August. But because every franchise does all three, what will the faithful’s emotional state be? A roller-coaster ride!

 

Patience:

When New York Mets supporters find out their club isn’t going to play .700 ball, they will think something is wrong with them and want it fixed immediately. All of a sudden, management will no longer be on a pedestal for brilliance as the best National League organization, and their fans will magnify every mistake as proof.

Put Another Way:

“Any time you think you have the game conquered, the game will turn around and punch you right in the nose.” - Mike Schmidt

While the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves are fighting their way back near .500, the Metropolitans have distanced themselves above their main divisional competition. But they won’t be playing .700 ball for the entire campaign and winning every series despite any local wishful thinking.                

Realistically, there are differences between the three fan bases; for instance, the red pinstripes faithful enter many summers with doubts. But, recently, the naysayers waited 10 games before believing manager Joe Girardi was the problem because he was taking a 4-6 mark in stride.      

In Atlanta, fans expect the Bravos to again capture the divisional pennant and believe Ronald Acuna Jr. will spark their turning point. And they feel the Phils and Mets will be irrelevant by August as usual. Contradictorily, the Fightins were contending until last September’s final week

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Phillies: 2022’s Lineup with Battles

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Perception is the devil torturing the Philadelphia Phillies faithful, and the only antidote is patience because there are three repetitive cycles annually. Unfortunately, no team is hot from beginning to end; they are also cold or play .500 ball multiple times. Every club does all three.  

 

Expectations:

Regrouping for two homestands before a west coast trip, the Phillies were welcoming 13 home games of 16 total. And seven of those are against the New York Mets: four in Philly. Always, good or bad streaks end, and .500 ball will also be in the summer’s equation. More ups than downs are my 2022 forecast. 

Put Another Way:

“Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning, you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. If you lose at the end, you're choking.” - Gene Mauch

Losing isn’t fun for anyone, but it’s worse if you participate: broadcasters, writers, and postgame analysts. It’s not a good feeling; I’ve seen and heard others suffering through it: I remember 2009’s losses during daily recaps. Yes, they went to the World Series, but the defeats stung just the same.     

No player wants a losing streak because it represents failure, and it doesn’t matter if you won 20 consecutive games before the defeats mount up: Losing is contagious also. Realistically, baseball has this job-related downside during times with three victories and nine defeats, like the recent results going from 3-1 to 6-10.         

Unlike winning and losing, playing .500 ball allows a franchise to quietly remain relevant. To illustrate, a team that’s 15 games over .500 can still have 15 more triumphs than defeats after 20 more contests, and many supporters don’t realize it. In fact, research reveals it’s below the surface.           

Winning streaks happen when the club has everything fitting together. Barring the 2011 Phillies with four aces, though, the organization will have good and bad times. And keep in mind, the red pinstripes’ shortcomings will eventually surface and end any victorious string. The first of many!     

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Phillies: Stars Playing for 2023’s Deals

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

Current Philadelphia Phillies statistics aside, many on the active  roster are eyeing this 162 as a financial opportunity, but 2022’s results also depend on good fortune and health. Yes, two starters, three late-inning relievers and four possible regulars are betting on themselves. But not 10 games in. 

 

Do-it Time:

Nine of 26 Phillies are either performing for a multi-year contract, another one-summer pact, or an exercised club option: more than one third of the 26-man roster-to-be. Moreover, this doesn’t include many youngsters earning a daily role or an active-26 spot, and there are six men for two jobs.            

Put Another Way:

“Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I'll win a pennant every year.” - Sparky Anderson

After three series, some are still on a pitch count, and players are nowhere near even 100 at-bats. Realistically, these stars must perform to earn top-dollar offers, and they know their production limitations and possibilities. But, unfortunately, some fans’ expectations are either too high or too low.     

While “three-slot hurler” Zach Eflin is healthy after knee surgery, a money tug-of-war is beneath the surface. Proposals: Eflin wants $6.9 million, the Phils offer is $5.15 million, and the arb estimate is $6.025 million: $0.875 million separates both sides from the midpoint evaluation.      

Kyle Gibson could end up in the five spot even though he’ll likely have similar stats to Eflin. Basically, National League franchises haven’t faced him: Five have seen him only once, and five haven’t at all, which is to the veteran’s advantage by moving to the NL. 

In the closer's role, Corey Knebel is a fireballer with a killer curve, and he’s learned to mix them rather than mostly relying on his heater. Plus he had insisted on a one-campaign pact for a shot at the free-agency jackpot, and so far he hasn’t disappointed management. No, locals haven’t realized this asset, but they will. 

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